Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Week Of Meetings

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

The front pages of most major newspapers are filled with items such as the following:
"BETHLEHEM, West Bank --

"...Here in the cradle of Christianity, the radical Palestinian movement that favors creation of an Islamic state won every parliamentary seat on Wednesday's ballot except those reserved for Christian candidates -- a lopsided victory duplicated in such secular strongholds as Jerusalem and Ramallah on the organization's way to a majority in the next legislature....

"'I have always believed in a secular Palestinian state, so I would have preferred another result,' Batarseh, a member of the Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said Friday. 'We have to accept this, whether we like it or not, because it is the will of the people.'

"The electoral triumph by Hamas, an organization that is committed to establishing an Islamic state across territory that includes Israel and whose armed wing has carried out bombings and other attacks on Israeli targets, has had repercussions around the world. It upended the Palestinian political order, complicated peace efforts with Israel and threatened the continuation of financial aid from the United States and other Western countries....

"Arafat is in a tomb in Ramallah, and inside the mayor's waiting room sit two smiling council members from Hamas, sipping tea and celebrating the results...."
How is the rest of the world going to handle Hamas's victory? So far, recognition of Hamas as a legitimate governing force has not happened. According to the Washington Post, the meetings begin this week:
"...Officials from the Bush administration, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations are scheduled to meet Monday [January 30, 2006] to begin discussing whether to continue funding a Palestinian government that will include Hamas in a prominent role.

"Israel and the Bush administration have demanded that Hamas renounce violence, recognize the Jewish state and disarm its military wing before joining the government...."
Really? Demand that Hamas renounce violence? And what of Hamas's plainly stated agenda? Here are some excerpts from Hamas's charter, from this source (The full version of the charter is here):
"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious...The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised...

"The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times...

"It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned...

"The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kassam and his brethren the fighters, members of Muslim Brotherhood. It goes on to reach out and become one with another chain that includes the struggle of the Palestinians and Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war and the Jihad operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1968 and after...

"The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...’ "
Of course, Hamas's recent victory at the polls is but one serious matter facing the prospeccts of peace. Recently, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been spouting saber-rattling rhetoric. Since December 30, 2005, Iran Watch has been keeping a log of news items related to developments in Iran and today informed me in a comment that Iran officially contributes to Hamas some $3 million per year.

According to Pim's Ghost over at What Would Charles Martel Do?, Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of both Israel and the United States:
"'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' he asked. 'But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved.'"
How is the rest of the world preparing to deal with Iran? The U. N. Security Council will meet on February 2-3. One can hope that this week's meetings on Hamas and Iran will yield some fruits, and certainly all diplomatic options should be kept open. But meetings are often pathetic substitutes for appropriate action.

In the meantime, according to this source.
"U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday [January 27, 2006] called on the United States to provide Iran with nuclear reactors and urged Tehran to declare a moratorium on enriching uranium for at least eight years.

"ElBaradei said that amountof time would enable the country to earn the confidence of the international community that it was really interested in nuclear energy not nuclear weapons....

"However, Ivan Safranchuk, a Russian analyst, cautioned that Iran might be using the plan only to buy time as it fights to avoid potential U.N. sanctions.

"Asked for his advice to Western officials, ElBaradei said: 'You need to keep all options on the table.'

"But U.S. Sen. JohnMcCain appeared to rule out negotiations.

"'They're interested inacquiring weapons of mass destruction and dominating the Middle East,' McCain, told a panel. 'I don't know of any carrot that works.'..."
A carrot? As in appeasement? What carrot can the West offer as long as we are economically dependent on oil?

Update: Norway recognizes Hamas as a government.

Update 2, from the January 31, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
"LONDON, Jan. 30 -- The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- along with Germany, agreed Monday night to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program.

"The decision, reached in London through a compromise with Russia and China, was a victory for the United States and its European allies, who had pressed for the matter to be sent to the council. But Russia and China were able to soften the agreement by stipulating that the Security Council not take up the matter until March. That gives Iran more time to comply with U.N. nuclear inspectors and avoid the threat of sanctions....

"The agreement to report, rather than "refer," is less than Washington wanted and gives Iran another chance to negotiate a way out of the crisis. Had the matter been "referred," it would have become the immediate domain of the Security Council.

"Winning the support of Russia and China to report the matter to the Security Council does not guarantee what action the council might take. It also does not guarantee that Russia and China would vote to support sanctions or other action proposed at the council.

"Iran now has six weeks to meet the requirements of the IAEA....

"'We consider any referral or report of Iran to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy,' Iranian state television quoted Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and its chief nuclear negotiator, as saying on Tuesday, according to Reuters...."

Update 3 from the January 31, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:

"DAMASCUS, Syria -- A new era in the struggle for Palestinian liberation is upon us. Through historic fair and free elections, the Palestinian people have spoken.
Accordingly, America's long-standing tradition of supporting the oppressed's rights to self-determination should not waver. The United States, the European Union and the rest of the world should welcome the unfolding of the democratic process, and the commitment to aid should not falter. Last week's victory of the Change and Reform Party in the Palestinian legislative elections signals a new hope for an occupied people.....

"Despite the pressures of occupation and corrupt self-rule, Palestinian civil society has demonstrated its resilience in the face of repressive conditions. Social institutions can now be given new life under a reformed government that embraces the empowerment of the people, facilitates freedoms and protects civil rights.

"Our society has always celebrated pluralism in keeping with the unique history and traditions of the Holy Land. In recognizing Judeo-Christian traditions, Muslims nobly vie for and have the greatest incentive and stake in preserving the Holy Land for all three Abrahamic faiths. In addition, fair governance demands that the Palestinian nation be represented in a pluralistic environment. A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity....

"The Islamic Resistance Movement was elected to protect the Palestinians from the abuses of occupation, based on its history of sacrifice for the cause of liberty. It would be a mistake to view the collective will of the Palestinian people in electing Hamas in fair and free elections under occupation as a threat. For meaningful dialogue to occur there should be no prejudgments or preconditions. And we do desire dialogue. The terms of the dialogue should be premised on justice, mutual respect and integrity of the parties.

"As the Israelis value their own security, Palestinians are entitled to their fundamental rights to live in dignity and security. We ask them to reflect on the peace that our peoples once enjoyed and the protection that Muslims gave the Jewish community worldwide. We will exert good-faith efforts to remove the bitterness that Israel's occupation has succeeded in creating, alienating a generation of Palestinians. We call on them not to condemn posterity to endless bloodshed and a conflict in which dominance is illusory. There must come a day when we will live together, side by side once again.

"The failed policies of the U.S. administration are the result of the inherent contradiction in its position as Israel's strongest ally and an "honest broker" in the conflict. World nations have condemned the brutal Israeli occupation. For the sake of peace, the United States must abandon its position of isolation and join the rest of the world in calling for an end to the occupation, assuring the Palestinians their right to self-determination.

"We appeal to the American people's sense of fairness to judge this conflict in light of the great thoughts, principles and ideals you hold dear in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the democracy you have built. It is not unreasonable to expect America to practice abroad what it preaches at home. We can but sincerely hope that you use your honest judgment and the blessings of ascendancy God has given you to demand an end to the occupation. Meaningful democracy cannot flourish as long as an external force maintains the balance of power. It is the right of all people to pursue their own destiny.

"The writer is deputy political bureau chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). He has a U.S. doctorate in engineering and was indicted in the United States in 2004 as a co-conspirator on racketeering and money-laundering charges in connection with activities on behalf of Hamas dating to the early 1990s, before the organization was placed on the list of terrorist groups. He was deported to Jordan in 1997. "

Continue reading....

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blast From The Past?

First appeared a nostalgic article in the January 19, 2006 edition of the Washington Post. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention at the time.

The emphasis of that piece was Washingtonians’ twentieth century naiveté about surviving a nuclear strike and included information from the Civil Defense System. Typical of articles about the Cold War Era, the article showed a picture of students taking cover under their schoolroom desks during air raid drills. I don’t recall huddling under my desk, but my husband tells me that students, bemused, did so in California.

Today we chuckle over the foolishness of those drills. But I remember how things were. The sirens would sound, and under their desks these students would dive—as if such a move could possibly save them from nuclear fallout. With some frequency, we saw television news reports depicting diving students. And sometimes at the movies, just before the feature film was shown, we watched public-service announcements. In addition, the radio and television broadcast systems were regularly tested with that grating tone, followed by "This has been a test of the emergency broadcast system. In the event of a real emergency..."

My clearest recollection of those Cold War drills here in the D.C. area was the building of fallout shelters. Everybody I knew had "a bomb shelter," provided their house had a basement or a closet with no walls bordering the outside. The largest suburban shopping mall at the time, Seven Corners Center, had the Civil Defense logo on clear display and gave directions as to how to access the shelter.

Around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a whole industry grew up around instructions as to “how to create a safe place for your family.” We dutifully stocked these shelters with nonperishables, a bottled-water supply to last for a minimum of two weeks, flashlights and batteries, blankets, reading materials, and firearms. By our bedsides, we kept go-bags, "emergency kits," in case the sirens sounded in the middle of the night.

We built our family's shelter in what used to be the coal bin for our furnace. Our shelter had one small outside window, easily defensible were an intruder attempt to slip in from the outside. All of us—my parents, my cousins, my aunts, my grandmother, and I—practiced our marksmanship in the fields on the north side of the property where we lived. In fact, my father, never the alarmist but ever cautious, bought me my own firearm during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Funny thing, though—nobody seemed to worry about the air supply or about nuclear winter. We had no real understanding of the effects of a nuclear blast.

The sirens sounded, and we practiced our routine, whether at home, at school, or out shopping. Those sirens, mounted on telephone poles, buildings, and special towers, emitted a Middle-C tone and were audible for about two miles. If the sirens sounded when I was at home, I was more concerned about finding my cat—a barn cat, really— and taking him to the safety of the shelter than about taking shelter. I vaguely remember arguing with my mother about how I planned to leave the shelter to fetch my cat. And for a few years after the sirens quit their wailing, we children would mistake regular sirens for air-raid sirens and dash for the shelters.

Now we laugh about those ineffective measures of the 1950s and 1960s. But in the D.C. area, the threat of a nuclear attack was taken quite seriously, at least to the best of my recollection. Probably because we lived on a farmette within seventeen miles of the capital (or perhaps because my mother was a federal employee), we received Civil Defense flyers and other materials, including a questionnaire which asked, “How many additional people can you take into your shelter, in the event that Washington is evacuated?” Responding to the questionnaire was voluntary, and my parents tossed the paper into the trash.

Whether or not the threat of nuclear attack was real or even survivable, some of my early memories are of that uncertain period, the Cold War Era.

Now comes this January 25, 2006 article from the Washington Post. Excerpt:
“The Washington region's emergency managers have concluded that the high-tech devices put in place since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are not enough to warn masses of people. So they are looking at the system that alerted the World War II and Cold War generations: the piercing wail of a siren.

"Arlington County and neighboring Alexandria will become the first communities in the country to experiment with sirens as alerts to terrorist attacks. They are preparing to buy as many as 15 modern sirens to mount on telephone poles, buildings and even traffic lights in a few neighborhoods in a federally funded pilot program that is being closely watched by other area governments.

"With their mix of urban canyons, suburban subdivisions, tourists, malls and parks -- and dense populations of daytime workers that make them vulnerable to attack -- Arlington and Alexandria stand out as ideal locations to see whether sirens can reach people that BlackBerrys, cell phones and radio stations cannot.

"'People outdoors are most at risk in an attack because they are least able to find out what is going on quickly,' said John Fuoto, an engineer and siren expert for the Department of Homeland Security and a consultant to Arlington, which is overseeing the pilot project.

"Fuoto said sirens could also be ideal warning systems on the Mall, in downtown Silver Spring and at Tysons Corner -- any place people congregate outside the reach of mass broadcasts over television, radio, telephone or pager….

"'Everyone's looking at this to see if it will really reach significant numbers of people who are otherwise not reachable,' said David Snyder of Falls Church, a member of the Washington region's emergency preparedness council….

"Most local governments dismantled their civil defense sirens in the 1990s after the federal government withdrew funding for them when the Cold War ended. They had alerted the public to emergencies for a century, starting with fire alarms. After World War II, they were named civil defense sirens throughout the United States after Joseph Stalin tested the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb in 1949.

"With the threat of nuclear war over, some of the yellow, electrically powered mechanical devices stayed as warning systems in some parts of the country for tornados and other natural disasters. Around Washington today, they are used near the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant to warn of any accidents and by eight tiny firehouses in western Loudoun County to summon volunteers to duty.

"The new generation of sirens, according to a study conducted by George Washington University for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, can be used to send live or recorded messages in multiple languages. They're more reliable than the older generation, and they can operate on batteries. They can be tested silently. And they can be activated individually -- after a chemical spill in one neighborhood, for example -- or as a group….”
The air cover here over the D.C. area has been very busy the last several days. This new air activity began right after Chirac made his recent saber-rattling statement, which ties in timewise with the January 19, 2006 UPI article about Iran's wanting to test a nuke:
"WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Tehran is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006 says a group opposed to the regime in Tehran.

"The Foundation for Democracy citing sources in the U.S and Iran offered no further information.

"The FDI quotes sources in Iran that the high command of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force have issued new orders to Shahab-3 missile units, ordering them to move mobile missile launchers every 24 hours in view of a potential pre-emptive strike by the U.S. or Israel....

"Advance Shahab-3 units have been positioned in Kermanshah and Hamadan province, within striking distance of Israel. Reserve mobile launchers have been moved to Esfahan and Fars province."
The above UPI article in no way implies that Iran has the missile capability to reach the United States. Even I am not paranoid enough to think that Iran is about to launch a direct strike against Washington, D.C.! Launching a strike against Israel--especially with Hamas's political victory this week or detonating a dirty bomb within our nation's borders--those are entirely different matters.

Recently I read that, over the years and dating back to the Ayatollah Khomeini (if memory serves correctly), Castro has paid a few visits to Tehran. Because of my past experiences with Cold War measures taken here in the D.C. area, I naturally associate Castro’s name with a childhood interrupted. Of course, threats other than nuclear missiles exist, and the Washington Post article makes that point.

Also, I just read this January 27, 2006 news item:
"BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombian has dismantled a false passport ring with links to al-Qaida and Hamas militants, the acting attorney general said Thursday after authorities led dozens of simultaneous raids across five cities in collaboration with U.S. officials....

"An undisclosed number of those arrested are wanted for working with the al-Qaida terror network and the militant Palestinian group Hamas, said acting Attorney General Jorge Armando Otalora...."
Is this latest pilot program of siren alerts the result of some kind of intelligence?

Whatever the case, the atmosphere here is unsettling, especially if one considers world events.

[Hat tip to both Cuanas and Gindy, where I found some of the links used in this article]

Continue reading....

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Grover Norquist--Islamist Enabler?

[All emphases by Always On Watch]

Can it be? Grover Norquist, an Islamist enabler? Norquist is perhaps best known as the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, and his bio and resume are impressive, especially for those on the right side of the political spectrum. But according to Frank Gaffney and Michelle Malkin, among others, Grover Norquist has another side, a side which might indicate Islamist sympathies.

From a January 15, 2006 article:
"Grover Norquist--Islamist Enabler?"

“A prominent conservative leader who allegedly has used undeclared foreign money and top political connections to promote terrorist sympathizers is an 'enabler' who threatens 'to do grave harm to the Bush presidency.'

“Norquist has been criticized for promoting what is called the Wahhabi lobby, a Saudi-funded network designed to dominate and radicalize Islam in America…”
Do the above excerpts sound like ridiculous conspiracy theory? Before deciding, consider the following, as delineated by Frank Gaffney in the above-cited article:
"The Islamic Institute, which Norquist co-founded and houses in his Americans for Tax Reform office, received seed money from an avowed supporter of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that killed 241 US Marines in a 1983 suicide bomb attack.

"The Islamic Institute reportedly is 'predominantly funded by foreign governments, shady Saudi sources, and US-based groups raided by the Treasury Department-led Operation Green Quest Task Force for allegedly funding suicide bombers, al Qaeda and other terrorists' activities.'

"Norquist led conservative opposition to parts of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism legislation, without disclosing that his Islamic group was dependent on such funds.

"Norquist has affiliated himself with the radical National Committee to Protect Political Freedom (NCPPF), from which he received an award shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks, despite the group's thirty-year public track record of promoting domestic and international terrorism."
How much influence does Grover Norquist wield? Turn the clock back to this November 2001 article in Free Republic:
“On the afternoon of September 26, George W. Bush gathered 15 prominent Muslim- and Arab-Americans at the White House. With cameras rolling, the president proclaimed that ‘the teachings of Islam are teachings of peace and good.’ It was a critically important moment, a statement to the world that America's Muslim leaders unambiguously reject the terror committed in Islam's name.

“Unfortunately, many of the leaders present hadn't unambiguously rejected it. To the president's left sat Dr. Yahya Basha, president of the American Muslim Council, an organization whose leaders have repeatedly called Hamas ‘freedom fighters.’ Also in attendance was Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who on the afternoon of September 11 told a Los Angeles public radio audience that ‘we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list.’ And sitting right next to President Bush was Muzammil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America, who last fall told a Washington crowd chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans, ‘America has to learn if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come.’ Days later, after a conservative activist confronted Karl Rove with dossiers about some of Bush's new friends, Rove replied, according to the activist, ‘I wish I had known before the event took place.’

"If the administration was caught unaware, it may be because they placed their trust in one of the right's most influential activists: Grover Norquist. As president of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist is best known for his tireless crusades against big government. But one of Norquist's lesser-known projects over the last few years has been bringing American Muslims into the Republican Party. And, as he usually does, Norquist has succeeded….

“Norquist denies being involved in ‘micromanaging the specifics’ of White House meetings, but admits ‘I have been a long time advocate of outreach to the Muslim community.’ In fact, the record suggests that he has spent quite a lot of time promoting people openly sympathetic to Islamist terrorists….While nobody suggests that Norquist himself is soft on terrorism, his lobbying has helped provide radical Islamic groups--and their causes--a degree of legitimacy and access they assuredly do not deserve."
Here’s a bit of additional information:
“Although it is not noted on either group's website, Norquist's Islamic Institute actually shares office space and staff with Americans for Tax Reform….

The AMC and CAIR have been able to get access to senior officials in the Bush Administration nine times since 9/11 despite the fact that CAIR has sued Attorney General Ashcroft and in June 2002 CAIR's executive director Nihad Awad declared that he supported the Hamas movement. Both groups have incessantly attacked President Bush's policies on Iraq, the monitoring of aliens from nations that sponsor terrorism, and the prosecution of suspected terror operatives…

Since 9/11, Norquist has led opposition to domestic anti-terrorism laws and has been quoted in frontpage NY times articles allelging a wholesale loss of faith by conservatives in Attorney General Josh Ashcroft. Norquist has also attacked Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, and others who have attempted to alert Americans to the dangers of Islam.”
A July 19, 2004 article, "The Faisal Gill Affair," provides an example of one individual whom Norquist recommended for a top-level position in our government:
It now appears that Mr. Norquist’s help has extended beyond facilitating high-level access and influence for various Muslim-American and Arab-American entities with troubling ties to, or at least sympathy for, radical Islamofascists – and even terrorists. Reportedly, his association also helped someone affiliated with such a group to gain a political appointment to an exceedingly sensitive post: ‘policy director’ of the Department of Homeland Security’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division.

“As the title of this position suggests, its occupant would have access to highly sensitive information about the vulnerability of, among other things, U.S. ports, transportation infrastructure, chemical plants, oil refineries and nuclear power plants to terrorist attack. The incumbent is a 32-year-old lawyer named Faisal Gill.

“It is unclear what qualified Mr. Gill for such a post. In response to press inquiries, a DHS spokeswoman declined to describe his qualifications or background so it is not known whether he has any prior experience with intelligence or, for that matter, with security policy.

“What is known is that Gill’s political patrons include Grover Norquist, who was listed by Gill as a reference on employment documents. After all, Gill had been a spokesman for the Taxpayers Alliance of Prince William County, Virginia, which is affiliated with Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform. Gill had also worked in 2001 as director of government affairs for the Islamic Free Market Institute (also known as the Islamic Institute), whose founding president was Grover Norquist.

Interestingly, news articles published after September 11 described Gill in another capacity – as a spokesman for the controversial American Muslim Council (AMC). The AMC was founded and controlled by a prominent Islamist activist, Abdurahman Alamoudi. Alamoudi was indicted last October on terrorism-related money laundering charges. [Alamoudi hs since been convicted.] While in jail awaiting trial, he has reportedly engaged in plea-bargaining by confessing to participating in a Libyan plot to murder the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

“For some reason, Gill is reported to have failed to list his work with the AMC on his ‘Standard Form 86’ national security questionnaire.”
On July 30, 2004, Michelle Malkin had this to say about Grover Norquist, in reference to Abdurahman Alamoudi, the moderate Muslim who turned out to be not so moderate:
“Norquist owes a public apology to fellow Republicans whom he has smeared as bigots for raising fundamental questions about Alamoudi and the Islamist-supporting apparatus in America. More importantly, Norquist owes answers about why he partnered with a known terrorist sympathizer, whether or not he now defends Alamoudi, when he plans to stop hiding behind the race card, and what exactly he plans to do to disavow Islamist influences.”
And how much influence have Norquist and his (former) cohorts had on policies in the Bush administration? According to Paul Sperry (whose web site is here), author of the 2005 book Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington:

"Many conservatives are annoyed by Bush's nonstop defense of Islam. They say they understood the need for such rhetoric right after the attacks to quell bias against Muslims and prevent vigilantism. But they say it is sounding more and more like boosterism, which could lead Americans into a false sense of security about the threat....

"In part, Bush is currying favor with Muslim groups at the request of Rove, who has worked with Norquist over the years to cultivate Muslims as a new voter base for the GOP, a highly controversial issue."
(page 17)
In his book, Mr. Sperry devotes Section VII, "Political Infiltration," to the influence of Islamism within our government. Chapter 27, "Undue Influence at the White House," deals primarily with Norquist's influence on American policy toward Muslims and how that policy might be interfering with effective strategies in dealing with the enemy.

Since the publication of the above-quoted words from page 17 of Mr. Sperry's book, President Bush has been more forceful in his condemnation of Islamism, often referred to as Islamofascism. Nevertheless, the Bush family's connections with the House of Saud are of concern to many as Saudi is the bastion of Wahhabism, viewed by most as the most radical form of Islam.

At the least, Norquist has a history of promoting associates of questionable connections. And has Norquist been the advocate of others yet to be exposed?

For a detailed article on Norquist, read "A Troubling Influence," a lengthy and well-footnoted piece.

The Abramhoff scandal may bring down Grover Norquist. In the process, will any additional of Norquist's disturbing connections come to light? Will the Right or the Left have the forthrightness to look beyond the Abrahamoff scandal, to consider what may present a graver threat than ties to Abramhoff's dirty money?

Additional reading: "The Conservative Response to the Islamic Threat" and "Can the Left Face the Threat of Islam?"

Thanks to The City Troll for providing many of the links used in this article.

Continue reading....

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Caliphate

[All emphases by Always On Watch]

From "Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical: Restoration of Caliphate, Attacked by Bush, Resonates With Mainstream Muslims," front-page article in the January 14, 2006 edition of the Washington Post (The same article, a lenghty one, is also here):
"ISTANBUL -- The plan was to fly a hijacked plane into a national landmark on live television. The year was 1998, the country was Turkey, and the rented plane ended up grounded by weather. Court records show the Islamic extremist who planned to commandeer the cockpit did not actually know how to fly.

"But if the audacious scheme prefigured Sept. 11, 2001, it also highlighted a cause that, seven years later, President Bush has used to define the war against terrorism. What the ill-prepared Turkish plotters told investigators they aimed to do was strike a dramatic blow toward reviving Islam's caliphate, the institution that had nominally governed the world's Muslims for nearly all of the almost 1,400 years since the death of the prophet Muhammad.

"The goal of reuniting Muslims under a single flag stands at the heart of the radical Islamic ideology Bush has warned of repeatedly in recent major speeches on terrorism. In language evoking the Cold War, Bush has cast the conflict in Iraq as the pivotal battleground in a larger contest between advocates of freedom and those who seek to establish "a totalitarian Islamic empire reaching from Spain to Indonesia."
Radical Islam uses violence and terror attacks as the means of establishing an Islamic empire, sometimes referred to as the caliphate. Indeed, Al Qaeda used the term "The Voice of the Caliphate" as the name of the Internet newscast in which Osama bin Laden praised the 9/11 attacks.

But according to the Washington Post, both radicals and moderates share a common fondness for the utopian ideal of the caliphate:
"Yet the caliphate is also esteemed by many ordinary Muslims. For most, its revival is not an urgent concern. Public opinion polls show immediate issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and discrimination rank as more pressing. But Muslims regard themselves as members of the umma, or community of believers, that forms the heart of Islam. And as earthly head of that community, the caliph is cherished both as memory and ideal, interviews indicate.

"That reservoir of respect represents a risk for the Bush administration as it addresses an issue closely watched by a global Islamic population estimated at 1.2 billion...."
The article goes on to explain the history of the caliphate. Disputes as to who should be the caliph, referred to in other sources as the successor to Mohammad and Allah's viceroy on earth, arose and caused the division between Sunnis and Shi'ites. The last caliph was Abdulmecid Efendi, who fell from power upon the establishment of the modern nation of Turkey in 1924. Kemal Ataturk, the military leader who led the revolution against Efendi, emphasized that a governmental system should be sovereign and imported France's idea that the state's rule of law should trump religious law. The Turks won self-rule, and portions of the former caliphate were divided up among European nations. This dividing up was not well received by many Muslims, who saw the break-up of the caliphate as a cause of the decline of Islamic nations. In 1953, as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, arose Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group which officially renounces violence, advocates working toward the establishment of the caliphate by subverting national governments.

Membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, often considered as moderate on the Islamic spectrum, appears to be increasing and claims to be active in forty countries, including Denmark:
"The chorus of 'Allahu akbar!' -- God is great -- was led by ardent young Europeans, a handful of converts in an attentive audience segregated by gender: fashionably dressed young men on the right, women in head scarves on the left.

"For four hours they heard Hizb ut-Tahrir's disciplined, intensely argued belief that the Muslim world lost its moorings when it imported not only scientific advances from the West, but also systems such as nationalism and democracy that emerged at the same time. In a series of 22 volumes on sale beside the podium, and in weekly discussions, the group sketches an alternative governing system it believes lies embedded in the Koran and the teachings of the prophet.

"The system includes a caliphate, revived after national governments are subverted by Hizb ut-Tahrir members working in their highest levels...

"'Bush is saying they would establish a caliphate from Spain to Indonesia,' said Abdullatif, the group's spokesman in Copenhagen. 'The establishment of the caliphate will come by those who work hard.' He said Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Iraq were working to coax a united front with insurgent groups.

"As the Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting in Copenhagen broke for evening prayers, Muziz Abdullah, an affable native of Lebanon, surveyed a hall still with standing-room only. 'Ten years ago, when I started, it was totally unrealistic to think there could be a caliphate,' he said. 'But now, people believe it could happen in a few years.'"
Is the Islamic concept of the caliphate widespread in Islam? Consider these words from Serge Trifkovic's The Sword of the Prophet:
"To whatever political entity a Muslim believer may belong--to the Arab world of North Africa and the Middle East, to the nation-states of Iran or Central Asia, to the hybrid entities of Pakistan and indonesia, to the international protectorates of Bosnia and Kosovo, or to the liberal democracies of the West--he is first and foremost the citizen of Islam, and belongs morally, spiritually, and intellectually, and in principle totally, to the world of belief of which Muhammad is the Prophet, and Mecca is the capital.

"This is not, of course, true for every Muslim but it is true of every true Muslim; it is the central worldly demand of Islam." (page 7).

"Islam starts with a simple profession of a simple faith. It ends by demanding complete, total, absolute allegiance of each individual to Muhammad and his successors. Anything less is disbelief, punishable by eternal torment..." (page 207)
Individual Muslims interviewed for the above Washington Post article expressed a yearning for the good old days, the restoration of the caliphate ruled by a successor to Mohammed. If the goal of Islam is to establish the caliphate, is the major difference between radical Islam and moderate Islam a matter of using different means to reach the same goal?

On January 20, 2006, a Diana West commentary appeared in the Washington Times. An excerpt from "Silence That Speaks Volumes":
"...[A] bombshell dropped out of an early January interview conducted by radio host Hugh Hewitt with Father Joseph D. Fessio, SJ, a friend and former student of the pope. Father Fessio recounted the pope's words on the key problem facing Islamic reform this way: 'In the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it's an eternal word. It's not Mohammed's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it.' Father Fessio continued, elaborating not on how many ratings stars the pope thinks some biopic should get, but rather on the pope's theological assessment of a historically warring religion with a billion-plus followers, some notorious number of whom are now at war with the West. According to his friend, the pope believes there's no way to change Islam because there's no way to reinterpret the Koran — i.e., change Koranic teachings on infidels, women, polygamy, penal codes and other markers of Islamic law — in such a way as to propel Islam into happy coexistence with modernity."
Are we standing before an abyss which we cannot comprehend and refuse to admit the very existence of?

Continue reading....

Twenty-fifth Anniversary Of Reagan's First Inauguration

Visit Mike's America for the round-up of tributes and the pictures.

Note to readers here: I'm waiting for the phone company to arrive to fix my home line, which has been on the fritz since January 4. So far, my modem line has not been affected. But if my modem line fails, I'll have to convert to cable or DSL and may experience a delay in posting new articles here.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"I Can't Get Enough Of The Man!"

"The house we hope to build is not for my generation but for yours. It is your future that matters. And I hope that when you are my age, you will be able to say as I have been able to say: We lived in freedom. We lived lives that were a statement, not an apology."
--Ronald Reagan (from this source, which offers quotes by category)
During the days of Ronald Reagan’s funeral rites, a client of mine uttered the words providing the title to this blog article. This client, some ten years younger than I, was quite young when Ronald Reagan assumed the Presidency in 1981; and I was surprised that she so revered him. When Mike's America invited me to contribute to the tribute honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of Reagan's first inauguration, I immediately recalled my client's words and decided to consider this question: What was it about our fortieth President which made him so special?

Reagan’s optimism about our nation, along with his sincere patriotism, made him a great leader. He had a clear vision as to American ideals and was not hesitant to express them. Furthermore, his optimism and patriotism were contagious. Never before Reagan's Presidency had I felt so blessed to be a citizen of the United States. And I know other people who felt the same way. In fact, back in 1980, one of my best friends left the Democratic Party because she felt the Reagan would represent the best of America to both this nation and to the world—and he did so.

Yes, Reagan was a Hollywood actor, the camera loved him, and he had that winning, crooked smile. But his appeal went beyond those qualities. The man was hard to dislike, in part because he could laugh at himself. Remember his appearances on The Dean Martin Roasts? He even got roasted himself! Americans love a leader with a self-deprecating sense of humor, a leader who is not full of himself. “Reagan was not a stuffed shirt,” as my husband says. And my husband should know because he met Reagan a few times in social situations between Reagan’s California governorship and his election to the White House. At the time of my husband’s contacts with Reagan, my husband was quite young, but he was impressed by how a very important man made everyone feel just as important as a celebrity. In sum, Reagan was “a nice guy.”

“Nice guys,” however, do not always make good leaders. It was Reagan’s ability to discern and to speak out boldly against evil which defined him as the greatest leader of the last half of the Twentieth Century. Read some of his speeches—The Wall, Bergen-Belsen, Farewell Address--as well as his final poignant letter as he entered the long night of Alzheimer's Disease—and you will find ideas which resonate across the ages. I believe that Reagan’s speeches and the ideals he held at the core of his soul will forever speak across the ages.

During his eight years in the White House, Reagan took whatever steps he felt necessary to combat evil and to make America a better nation. Though the man enjoyed being liked, he did not place a priority on popularity. Rather, he lived by the words “Be sure you’re right. Then go ahead.” Commitment to a considered path of action is the most important quality which any leader can have, and Reagan embodied that quality.

Perhaps we shall not see the likes of our fortieth President again. We need him now as we face the confrontation with the warriors of Islam. Even though we don’t have Ronald Reagan to face the enemy, we do have his words and his example to support our efforts. I, too, “can’t get enough of the man.”

God bless America. God bless Ronald Reagan.

[Note: Visit Mike's America to see a collection of tributes to Ronald Reagan.]

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Monday, January 16, 2006

A Student's Tribute To Ronald Reagan

Written by a homeschool student, the following free-verse poem commemorates the passing of Ronald Reagan. This young poet is a Christian and a patriot, and graduated from high school last June.

A Great Man Remembered

Two flames--

One is extinguished,

The other is never-ending,

Today a great man moves on,

Maybe not in this world,

But in Heaven.

He helped fight off the evil in this world.

He helped those in time of justice,

This great man was President Ronald Reagan--

A leader,

A husband,

A Christian,

Even though his body is broken,

His spirit still lives.

At the right hand of God

He sits and talks to Him

About the world.

And he says, “I am truly home.”

One flame extinguished--

The other still lives,

And will live eternally.

June 2004

Note: Visit Mike's America to see a collection of tributes to Ronald Reagan.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Remembering Reagan

Go here to see pictures and to read excerpts from participating blogs.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tribute to Ronald Reagan

Mike's America has issued an invitation to post a tribute in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration. I have chosen to post Reagan's Bergen-Belsen Speech. In a few days, I'll post some of my own thoughts as to why our fortieth President continues to be venerated.
Remarks at a Commemorative Ceremony at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in the Federal Republic of Germany
May 5, 1985

Chancellor Kohl and honored guest, this painful walk into the past has done much more than remind us of the war that consumed the European Continent. What we have seen makes unforgettably clear that no one of the rest of us can fully understand the enormity of the feelings carried by the victims of these camps. The survivors carry a memory beyond anything that we can comprehend. The awful evil started by one man, an evil that victimized all the world with its destruction, was uniquely destructive of the millions forced into the grim abyss of these camps.

Here lie people -- Jews -- whose death was inflicted for no reason other than their very existence. Their pain was borne only because of who they were and because of the God in their prayers. Alongside them lay many Christians -- Catholics and Protestants.

For year after year, until that man and his evil were destroyed, hell yawned forth its awful contents. People were brought here for no other purpose but to suffer and die -- to go unfed when hungry, uncared for when sick, tortured when the whim struck, and left to have misery consume them when all there was around them was misery.

I'm sure we all share similar first thoughts, and that is: What of the youngsters who died at this dark stalag? All was gone for them forever -- not to feel again the warmth of life's sunshine and promise, not the laughter and the splendid ache of growing up, nor the consoling embrace of a family. Try to think of being young and never having a day without searing emotional and physical pain -- desolate, unrelieved pain.

Today, we've been grimly reminded why the commandant of this camp was named ``the Beast of Belsen.'' Above all, we're struck by the horror of it all -- the monstrous, incomprehensible horror. And that's what we've seen but is what we can never understand as the victims did. Nor with all our compassion can we feel what the survivors feel to this day and what they will feel as long as they live. What we've felt and are expressing with words cannot convey the suffering that they endured. That is why history will forever brand what happened as the Holocaust.

Here, death ruled, but we've learned something as well. Because of what happened, we found that death cannot rule forever, and that's why we're here today. We're here because humanity refuses to accept that freedom of the spirit of man can ever be extinguished. We're here to commemorate that life triumphed over the tragedy and the death of the Holocaust -- overcame the suffering, the sickness, the testing and, yes, the gassings. We're here today to confirm that the horror cannot outlast hope, and that even from the worst of all things, the best may come forth. Therefore, even out of this overwhelming sadness, there must be some purpose, and there is. It comes to us through the transforming love of God.

We learn from the Talmud that: ``It was only through suffering that the children of Israel obtained three priceless and coveted gifts: The Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come.'' Yes, out of this sickness -- as crushing and cruel as it was -- there was hope for the world as well as for the world to come. Out of the ashes -- hope, and from all the pain -- promise.

So much of this is symbolized today by the fact that most of the leadership of free Germany is represented here today. Chancellor Kohl, you and your countrymen have made real the renewal that had to happen. Your nation and the German people have been strong and resolute in your willingness to confront and condemn the acts of a hated regime of the past. This reflects the courage of your people and their devotion to freedom and justice since the war. Think how far we've come from that time when despair made these tragic victims wonder if anything could survive.

As we flew here from Hanover, low over the greening farms and the emerging springtime of the lovely German countryside, I reflected, and there must have been a time when the prisoners at Bergen-Belsen and those of every other camp must have felt the springtime was gone forever from their lives. Surely we can understand that when we see what is around us -- all these children of God under bleak and lifeless mounds, the plainness of which does not even hint at the unspeakable acts that created them. Here they lie, never to hope, never to pray, never to love, never to heal, never to laugh, never to cry.

And too many of them knew that this was their fate, but that was not the end. Through it all was their faith and a spirit that moved their faith.

Nothing illustrates this better than the story of a young girl who died here at Bergen-Belsen. For more than 2 years Anne Frank and her family had hidden from the Nazis in a confined annex in Holland where she kept a remarkably profound diary. Betrayed by an informant, Anne and her family were sent by freight car first to Auschwitz and finally here to Bergen-Belsen.

Just 3 weeks before her capture, young Anne wrote these words: "It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever approaching thunder which will destroy us too; I can feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I looked up into the heavens I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end and that peace and tranquility will return again.'' Eight months later, this sparkling young life ended here at Bergen-Belsen. Somewhere here lies Anne Frank.

Everywhere here are memories -- pulling us, touching us, making us understand that they can never be erased. Such memories take us where God intended His children to go -- toward learning, toward healing, and, above all, toward redemption. They beckon us through the endless stretches of our heart to the knowing commitment that the life of each individual can change the world and make it better.

We're all witnesses; we share the glistening hope that rests in every human soul. Hope leads us, if we're prepared to trust it, toward what our President Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. And then, rising above all this cruelty, out of this tragic and nightmarish time, beyond the anguish, the pain and the suffering for all time, we can and must pledge: Never again.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. after laying a wreath at a camp memorial. Following his remarks, the President and Chancellor Kohl traveled to Bitburg.
President Reagan's famous Wall Speech is available here at The City Troll's site. Other speeches are available here.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

"Why Is My Face On TV?"

According to one of the local news channels,
"A 23-year-old Southeast man has been charged with felony murder in the death of retired New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum.

"For detectives, the arrest couldn't have been much easier.

"At 5 p.m., news stations in DC ran surveillance video of a man using Rosenbaum's credit card minutes after the Jan. 6 attack in a Northwest neighborhood.

"Around 6 p.m., police say, Michael Hamlin walked into the 7th District police station 'inquiring why his face was on television,' said DC police Detective Anthony Paci...."
Video reports are available here, in the left sidebar.

The Washington Post provides this additional information about Hamlin's visit to the police station:
"Hamlin walked into the police station last night wearing the same dark jacket, with his first name sewed onto a chest patch, that he had been wearing in a surveillance tape, police said."
Hamlin is due to appear in court today.

It's been a strange week for crime news in D.C. Recently Marion Barry told a suspicious story about a mugging in his home. Barry's not wanting to prosecute his muggers led to wide speculation as to the circumstances; the revelation that, last fall as part of a plea agreement to failure to file accurate tax returns, he tested positive for cocaine seems to support some of that speculation. From the Washington Post:
"The news that D.C. Council member Marion Barry failed a court-ordered drug test in the fall drew sighs, prayers and a call for him to take a leave from his council seat. But at his old haunts and among his constituents, what was missing yesterday was a sense of surprise.

"For many, this is the fourth decade of the sometimes rocky, sometimes inspiring marriage between Barry, the former four-term mayor who now represents Ward 8 on the council, and the residents of his adopted city. If there was one feeling, it was an amalgam of sadness, empathy and deja vu....

"'He cannot help people in Ward 8 until he helps himself. That should be his number one priority,' said longtime activist Phillip Pannell, who suggested Barry take a leave of absence from the D.C. Council. 'He needs to be away from politics, away from the phone and staff, and deal with his health situation.'

"Others, however, said Barry has been productive in the last year, advocating for the city's poorest ward....

"If Barry is incarcerated, he would not have to give up his council seat and could even introduce legislation from his jail cell, but he could not cast council votes, according to D.C. Council rules.

"Barry would have to relinquish his council seat only if convicted of a felony, said Charlotte Brookins-Hudson, the council's general counsel. Barry pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax charge...."
During Barry's mayorship, he came under criticism for awarding government contracts to those who had never before had much money, but probably didn't take money for himself. After all, the last time he ran for office, in 2004, he needed the salary.

Certainly Marion Barry's latest troubles are not as serious as those of Michael Hamlin. Barry is ruining his own life, but Hamlin viciously murdered a man who was just trying to go for an after-dinner walk. Surviving for a few short days, Rosenbaum died of blunt-force trauma.

I can muster some sympathy for Barry, possibly in the grip of addiction. I can't do the same for a cold-blooded murderer--and a stupid cold-blooded murderer, at that.

Continue reading....

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Late Is It?

[All emphases by Always On Watch]

From this evening's update to the Washington Post web site,
"PARIS, Jan. 12 -- The foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France called Thursday for Iran to be referred to the U.N. Security Council for violating its nuclear treaty obligations, saying that their more than two years of negotiations with the country reached a dead end this week when the Iranians resumed uranium enrichment activities.

"In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a similar call. The Security Council must deal with Iran's 'defiance,' she said...."
From today's early edition of the Washington Post, here is the lead editorial in its entirety:

"IRAN'S RESUMPTION of uranium enrichment dramatically narrows the options of Western governments that hope to prevent its Islamic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. The breaking of seals at its Natanz plant Tuesday directly violated an agreement Tehran struck with Britain, France and Germany in 2004 to suspend its enrichment program; that should end European hopes that economic favors could be exchanged for a permanent freeze. A Russian offer to enrich Iranian uranium has no greater prospect of success: Tehran announced its new, supposedly experimental work before it had responded to Moscow. Notions of a broader 'grand bargain' between Iran and the West have been rendered ludicrous by the rantings of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust more vigorously than he has Iran's plans to become a nuclear power. And thanks to better footwork by the Bush administration, European governments no longer have the option of blaming the United States for the failure of diplomacy.

"That leaves the strategy that the United States has been pressing all along, which is referring Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council. Such a referral, which must come from the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, probably won't change Iranian behavior or lead to Security Council action; North Korea has been before the council for three years without result. But having promised that consequence in the event of a resumption of enrichment, European governments must now move forward. To shrink from referring Iran to the Security Council now would strip the West of its remaining credibility in Tehran and all but eliminate the possibility of a peaceful solution.

"As it is, the weak response to Iran's last provocation, the reopening of a uranium conversion facility in August, probably encouraged this week's escalation. European governments issued angry statements and helped pass an IAEA resolution that spoke of bringing Iran to the council at some indefinite time. In the following weeks, however, the Europeans returned to the same negotiating strategy that had already failed, offering to resume talks with Iran and backing Russia's intervention. The Bush administration, too, supported this course, in keeping with its strategy of building a coalition rather than squabbling over tactics with allies. The net result was that Iran's belligerence was answered with more appeasement.

"The mullahs are gambling that the same will happen in this case: that European governments will once again temporize or that Russia and China will prevent any meaningful Security Council action. Even if the Europeans respond firmly, and a resolution is adopted by the IAEA, the latter calculation is probably a good one. Russia, which just signed a $1 billion arms sale agreement with Iran, is increasingly hostile to Western initiatives, and China is a major consumer of Iranian oil. So while the means of the Security Council must be tried, Western governments should also begin fashioning a policy of sanctions and containment for Iran that can be applied by a coalition of the willing. That should be coupled with a more concerted effort to support the large part of the Iranian population that yearns to free itself from repressive clerical rule. If there is to be a credible alternative to military action against Iranian facilities -- or the concession of nuclear weapons to a regime that openly advocates wiping Israel from the map -- now is the time for Europe and the United States to agree on it."
The above editorial is entitled "Iran's Nuclear Challenge." A better title might be "Iran's Nuclear Threat," although all indications are that Iran no longer has the nuclear bomb nor the capability of making one--yet.

The detonation of a nuclear weapon would change the world order. How far down the road are we to that horrific possibility?

Iran Watch, which has been chronicling events since December 18, 2005, deals exclusively with the threat from Ahmadinejad.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006


Is this treason?
"...President Bush has basically accused the New York Times of treason. In his remarks on how the paper disclosed the existence of a program to discover planned Al Qaeda terrorist operations on U.S. soil, Bush said this information was 'improperly provided to news organizations,' meaning the Times, and 'our enemies have learned information they should not have…' He said 'the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.'"
This is also worth considering:
"...Here in the United States since 9/11, the terrorists have done nothing -- that is, no violence on our homeland. That is the incident worth paying attention to. But is it curious? No.

"The terrorists’ lack of success is the result of a response that has been aggressive and single-minded -- at home, in Iraq and in places we know little about. The policy is working. It has kept us safe. We tamper with it at our own extreme peril."
In 1798, during the early days of our nation under John Adams's Federalist administration, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in response to Americans' fear that large numbers of European immigrants in flight from the radicalism of the French Revolution might bring with them ideas which threatened the newly formed United States. The Alien Acts gave the President power to imprison or deport any immigrants whom he deemed dangerous. The Sedition Act made it a crime to make or publish "false, scandalous, and malicious" statements against the government, Congress, or the President; and some twenty-five newsmen were prosecuted. All over the newly formed nation, people protested the acts. Two of the Founders, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, decried the Sedition Act; Jefferson in particular felt that it violated the First Amendment. John Adams did not win a second term as President, and the Federalist Party never again gained election to the White House.

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I've Been Tagged!

Baron has tagged me with the latest germ being passed around the blogosphere--the Childhood Meme.

My life as a child (under 15) in 50 words or less: I was an only, late-in-life child and spent much of my time reading under the weeping willow tree, practicing the piano, doing schoolwork, and roaming forty open acres originally belonging to my grandfather. But I never felt lonely and learned the difference between loneliness and solitude.

Where were you a kid? Fairfax County, Virginia. We never moved! In fact, my father lived in sight of his birthplace until he and my mother sold the property in 1983.

Given the choice, were you barefoot or shoed [sic]? Barefoot, but my mother made and enforced the rule that shoes stayed on Labor Day through April 30.

Were you a city kid or a country kid? More a country kid than a city kid. We raised and slaughtered chickens. We also had an acre-large vegetable garden, as did my father's brother next door.

Stupidest thing you did before the age of 15: While my father was busy working in the pit of our automotive garage, I found the gallon bucket of white paint--lead-based, no doubt. Being a mischievous four-year-old, I dipped both of my hands into the bucket and put my hand prints all over the black tarpaper on the inside of the garage doors. Lots of scrubbing with gasoline was required to remove that paint from my hands, and for several days I had white paint under my fingernails.

Do you know how to play Kick the Can? Yes, but we were more likely to kick play Kick A Rock.

What else did you play in groups? Baseball, basketball, dodgeball, and tag (Prisoners' Darebase), all on the schoolyard. Because of where I grew up, there was only one neighbor with a child my age; my cousins next door were six to ten years older than I and weren't at all interested in playing any games with their baby cousin.

Worst injury? A stray dog bit me on the forearm all the way to the bone. I still get questions about the hideous scar.

Do you agree with Bob Seger’s line in Against the Wind, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then”? Yes, since 9/11. But knowledge is power.

Even if you don't care to play, I've tagged you anyway: Mustang, Esther, and Mr. Beamish.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Highest Ideal, the Lowest Standard

From time to time, I post my students' work on this blog. Previous work from students is here and here.

A homeschooler wrote and revised an essay in response to this sample New SAT writing prompt for the timed essay:
"Justice is nothing more than the interest of the stronger.
Assignment: Is it true that the strong do what they wish? In an essay support your position by discussing an example (or examples) from literature, science and technology, the artis, current events, or your own experience or observation."
The Highest Ideal, the Lowest Standard
Often our society considers the word “justice” as synonymous with the legal system, courtrooms, attorneys, and judges. If one has been wronged, our legal system boasts a thorough resolution. After all, our Founding Fathers, the creators of the judicial branch, wrote the Constitution to “establish Justice,” as written in the Preamble. Usually, however, lawyers and judges are taught ways to interpret the laws to push the boundaries of the Constitution, rather than to uphold the truth by simply representing their client. The case of Tawana Brawley and her two attorneys Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason illustrates that Justice, in its highest form, is nothing more than a means of political gain among the powerful.

The demise of America’s justice system began during the Cold War when communism became a threat to our society. In prestigious universities, Marxist ideals ran rampant, giving way to professors who believed the lie that man could succeed without the need for a Higher Being. And for what greater power can one achieve than being beyond the law? So began the transfiguration of America’s so-called “justice” system. In 1987 Tawana Brawley accused a group of Caucasian police officers of raping her in Wappingers Falls, New York. Her famous attorneys, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, brandished Miss Brawley’s story as a case of racism. By the trial’s end, however, the public knew that Maddox and Mason were more concerned with making a political statement than knowing the truth behind their client’s story.

During the course of Brawley’s trial, Maddox and Mason became powerful, scheduling television appearances, radio interviews, and grandiose press conferences in order to fault the justice system they themselves were exploiting. A third man, an African American preacher named Al Sharpton, also attached himself to Brawley’s case and became a part of the media circus, claiming to be a spokesperson for the victim. All three of these men used Tawana Brawley’s case as a way to forward their political aspirations, especially Sharpton, who intended to run for President soon after. Therefore, Brawley’s case was nothing more than a claim to fame instead of a call for justice.

Like God and communism, truth and greed do not mix. The principle of justice is still widely regarded as true and noble. In its highest form, however, it fails to do anything more than stimulate the minds of those too young to see past their own greed and those too old to find their way out of the glutinous monster in which they find themselves. A just system run by unjust people will frequently yield unjust results, thereby resulting in an unjust system.

Copyright 2005 E. Rice

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Worse Than The Mine's Cave-In

Cry and pray for these families in West Virginia. Three hours of jubilation dashed.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Identity Theft

Note to readers: This is another of my long articles, so settle in.

[All emphases by Always On Watch]

Upon returning from our Thanksgiving vacation, my husband and I had to deal with the possibility of identity theft because of the break-in at my accountant's office. I immediately followed my accountant's suggestion of placing a ninety-day fraud alert by notifying Equifax. My notification of the break-in was some two weeks late, however, due to Thanksgiving vacation.

Along came commenter Storm, a fraud detective who works identity-theft cases in a major metropolitan area, to leave important information:

"It would be prudent to check again in about 60 days as there is some lag time from when a merchant makes a loan and the loan is reported to equifax. Also make sure you get the fraud alert that lasts 7 years (This must be done in writing). Suspects have been known to wait and try again after the temp hold expires."
Storm also suggested checking the official government web site for identity theft, which is, according to the site,

"a one-stop national resource to learn about the crime of identity theft. It provides detailed information to help you protect yourself from identity theft, and the steps to take if it occurs."
In a comment to another of my blog articles, Storm pointed out that most identity thefts do not begin with break-ins. In fact, purse or wallet theft is the most common method.

Reproduced in its entirety is this short February 7, 2005 article from Time Magazine:

"The term identity theft may conjure up notions of cyberhacks and Internet scams, but most ID fraud, it turns out, starts off-line. Last year 9.3 million Americans were victims of identity fraud, a problem that cost consumers and businesses some $52 billion. But fewer than 12% of cases start online, according to a survey by Javelin Strategy & Research and the Better Business Bureau. Most ID theft has an old-fashioned beginning: a lost wallet, stolen mail or a friend or relative with easy access to financial information. Another finding: People who monitor accounts online catch fraud earlier and minimize the damage. While the average loss for fraud detected by paper statements was $4,543, it was just $551 for such crimes discovered online."
And here is "Personal Finance: How you can (and can't) avoid identity theft," from U.S. News & World Report (6/30/05):

"Identity theft is becoming as ubiquitous as credit card solicitations. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it's sure starting to feel that way.

'Over the past five years, 28 million Americans—or roughly 13 percent of the adult population—have fallen victim to the crime, in which thieves steal personal information to open lines of credit, obtain loans, or simply purchase goods and services in the stolen name.

"In recent weeks, tens of millions more households have had their personal information lost or stolen, exposing them to a similar fate. Already, Americans are changing their behavior as a result. A new study by the Conference Board shows that 70 percent of Internet users have installed an added layer of software security protection on their home computers. Meanwhile, more than 2 out of 5 Internet users say they are making fewer purchases online as a result of fears about identity theft.

"While there's certainly an argument for being more careful when surfing the Internet and making fewer online purchases, these steps will likely do little to keep you from being a victim of ID theft.

"Here's why:

"The most common way consumers fall victim to ID theft is not through the high-tech landscape of the Internet but through conventional means such as a lost or stolen wallet or purse. In fact, online identity theft represents only a small minority of total ID theft cases. For example, only 5 percent of thefts came through computer spyware and only 2 percent of cases were the result of computer hackers, according to a survey by the consulting firm Javelin Strategy & Research.

"There is a good chance you know the person who stole your identity. The Javelin study found that 1 in 5 victims of ID theft last year had their identities stolen by a friend, acquaintance, relative, or employee.

"Most victims of ID theft are already doing the right thing when it comes to their online behavior. Yet they're still falling victim to this crime. For example, 66 percent of ID theft victims last year shredded their financial documents before discarding them while 60 percent used antivirus, antispyware, and firewall software.

"The recent headline-grabbing stories of identity theft show that even if you play it absolutely safe by shredding your documents and making no transactions online, you're still at risk of ID theft if your bank misplaces customer data or should a retailer's computer system get hacked.

"So instead of spending all your time worrying about prevention, think about monitoring your records as well. That means checking all your bank and credit card and loan statements thoroughly every month. And think about signing up for a credit-monitoring program through your bank or one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Fair Isaac, which runs one of the leading credit-scoring services, also offers a credit-monitoring program through its site. These services, which can run from $40 to $100 a year, will alert you should a loan or credit card be opened up fraudulently in your name.

"And don't forget that a new law makes it possible for consumers to get a free copy of each of their three credit reports annually. To learn how to obtain your free reports, [go here]."
Storm also made the following points to this blog article, which discusses using a cell phone as an ATM:

"ID Thefts occur 4 major ways
1) yours a physical crime break in etc although homes are rare--aggresive attack
2) trash and mail--passive attack
3) hacking and other electronic tech--can be passive or aggressive
4) employees who have our info
"I would be more afraid of the girl at the kiosk making $8 per hour selling the headset than using the headset."
Storm's comment about mall kiosks was of particular interest to me because, on December 24, 2005, the Washington Post featured an article entitled "Dreams Incubate in Shopping Carts: Kiosks Seen as Springboards for Immigrant Entrepreneurs":

"...Scattered among the malls packed with holiday shoppers are kiosks filled with sunglasses, purses, jewelry and more exotic products. New carts have recently appeared, selling ornaments, candy and other seasonal items. Owners of these small businesses hope to lure some of the shoppers rushing to buy gifts at retail mainstays such as Gap, Ann Taylor and Bloomingdale's....

"Nationally, about 25 percent of the more than 50,000 carts and kiosks in shopping malls are owned or operated by recent immigrants, according to figures compiled by Patricia Norins, a kiosk consultant and publisher of the trade magazine Specialty Retail Report....

"In many shopping centers, small retailers can open a kiosk for as little as $5,000, which generally covers the price of renting the cart and purchasing the merchandise, according to kiosk owners and Kathy Hannon, senior property manager for Macerich Co., which runs Tysons Corner Center. To open a kiosk, an entrepreneur must present mall managers with a proposal outlining what they will sell and why it will work in the mall's marketplace. Hannon said immigrants can often import unusual goods inexpensively from their home countries.

"Once a proposal has been approved, most shopping centers require a security deposit and the first month's rent for the cart. Kiosk operators often can commit to rent the cart for as little as three months. Norins said profits earned from kiosks vary greatly. Most kiosk owners sell products for about $20 and mark up items at least three times wholesale price, she said. Kiosk owners interviewed declined to describe their markups, but African immigrant Atchossa Tchama said he comfortably replaced the $40,000 income he earned working for the federal government within his first year of owning the kiosk and has since surpassed that...."
I love the deals which I can find at mall kiosks, but after reading Storm's comment, I'm glad that I've always paid by cash!

Identity theft is particularly troubling because any person can be a victim. I know when and where the thieves got my information (if they indeeed were able to crack the encryption of the data on the twenty-six computers stolen), but nearly all victims never find out how and when they were compromised. Some victims do not find out for years when they try to get a mortgage or if they get arrested.

I will be requesting another report after the first one because some time has to pass in order to allow for any items not currently reported to make their way to the reporting agencies. Lag time exists from when one acquires a car loan and the lender notifies the credit reporting bureaus, and lag time also applies to the various stages of identity-theft investigation.

Regardless whether or not we're suspicious of our own identities having been stolen, once a year, all of us should go here, where each of us can get an annual credit report. The report is free!

In my situation, all seems well--so far, but not even sixty days has passed. And maybe the break-in of my accountant's office was an attempt to get the state-of-the-art computer equipment there and not an attempt to steal my identity. After the bit of research I've done, I cannot afford to assume the best.

Continue reading....

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Celebrate 2006, All Year Long

Some ideas from the January 1, 2006 Travel section of the Washington Post:

Ben Franklin Tercentenary
America's biggest overachiever, Ben Franklin, would have turned 300 on Jan. 17 -- and the party is no simple cake-and-candles affair. Ben-centric festivities will run through 2006 in various American cities and countries, but Philadelphia will host the largest bash, with more than 125 activities through April.
WHY GO: Because every time lightning strikes, you have Ben to thank for protection.
HIGHLIGHTS: The man who established the first public hospital, invented the lightning rod and helped found our nation is honored around town with museum exhibits, symphonies, lectures, demonstrations and even a ballet in which dancers interpret his inventions , including swim fins and bifocals....On a less serious side, visitors can pair the exhibit with their best jammies Jan. 13 at Ben's Birthday Pajama Party...

Turin Winter Olympics
The XX Winter Games, Feb. 10-26 in Turin, Italy, and the surrounding Alps.
WHY GO: You've seen the shroud, now see the Spandex skin suits.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Italians are expected to pull out the pageantry for the opening and closing ceremonies, though show details remain hush-hush....

Total Solar Eclipse
WHAT: On March 29, the moon will block out the sun for a few short, crepuscular minutes -- an astronomical feat not to be repeated until August 2008. The total eclipse's path runs from Brazil across the Atlantic and into central Africa. It will then swoop over the Mediterranean, darkening Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan before heading back to Russia and ending at sunset over the Mongolian border.
WHY GO: The moon gets its day in the sun.
HIGHLIGHTS: The total eclipse lasts anywhere from 2 1/2 minutes to 4 minutes 7 seconds, depending on your location. (A much lengthier partial eclipse precedes and follows the total eclipse, but don't forget to wear your special half-sun glasses.)Keeping weather and safety in mind, NASA project manager Fred Espenak says the best viewing spots are in Jalu, a small desert town in Libya; Saloum, Egypt; and Antalya, Turkey. In these locations, the eclipse will hit midday, so the quick change from light to darkness will be even more dramatic....

Mozart's Birthday
Vienna will be filled with the sound of Mozart during the Wiener Mozartjahr, which celebrates his 250th birthday from Jan. 27 through November.
WHY GO: In Vienna, Mozart is A Major.

Rembrandt 400
WHAT: Happy 400th, Rembrandt. Throughout 2006, the Dutch town of Leiden (the artist's birthplace) is teaming with Amsterdam (where he lived, worked, had affairs) to commemorate the 17th-century artist who showed us the chiaroscuro.
WHY GO: Art history slides don't do justice to the Baroque master.
HIGHLIGHTS: For a retrospective of Rembrandt's life, take a free walking tour of both cities; pit stops include the Latin School he attended and the house where he painted and drew for more than 20 years....

Centennial of the San Francisco Earthquake
WHAT: At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, San Francisco was shaken by one of the country's most devastating earthquakes. One hundred years later, the Bay Area commemorates the disaster (and the subsequent four-day fire) with a year of events -- though most occur around that fated day.
WHY GO: To relive the scariest seconds in Northern California's history....

European Cultural Capital for 2006
WHAT: Patras, on the coast of the Greek region of Peloponnesus, takes a turn wearing the crown as the year's European Capital of Culture.
WHY GO: Greece and culture go as well together as olives and oil.
HIGHLIGHTS: The opening days (Jan. 10-21) are a crash course in culture, with the Gogmagogs, a theater troupe that blends music, edgy theater and flamboyant costumes; an exhibit that looks back at 20 years of ECC winners; and a multimedia experience that lets visitors " time travel" to Patras's past. During Carnival Days (Jan. 21-March 1), catch "Angels From the Sky," a light-as-air act with a bit of Barnum & Bailey, or hear the Viennese Vegetable Orchestra play tunes on instruments last seen in your dinner salad. If you're a mime-aphobe, be warned: From Jan. 21 to April 5, the Unethical Poetry troupe of wily performers will heckle passersby in the city center. From May 19 to June 4, the classics get a modern makeover, including Aeschylus' "Agamemnon," Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" and other Western Civ standards. For "Songs of Wine and Love" (June 27-Sept. 15), the intoxicating poems of Sappho, Alkaois and others are expressed through music and dance. Photographers Anna Papoulia and Nelly Tragousti snap Patrasian children at play, contrasting their pretend world with reality (Dec. 1-28).
Note: Dates may change. Ticket prices and ordering, along with event locations, will soon be available...

Jamestown 2007
WHAT: Although Jamestown, Va., doesn't turn the big Four-O-O until May 2007, the 18-month-long bash revs up in 2006 with some signature events around the East Coast.
WHY GO: Without the Jamestown settlers, we might've been forced to care even more about Charles and Camilla.
During the week of May 21, the Godspeed will kick off Jamestown 2007 with its full-sail departure from Jamestown Settlement; the ship will then embark on a goodwill tour of the Eastern Seaboard. To board the re-created settlers' boat as well as her sister ships (the Susan Constant and the Discovery), visit the settlement, an hour's drive east of Richmond...
Twenty-five miles from Jamestown, Yorktown will salute its 1781 Revolutionary War victory with a four-day festival on Oct. 19-22. For the 225th, the town will have reenactors performing 18th-century military techniques, a tall ship display, fireworks, a military parade and band concerts. While there, stroll the newly constructed Riverwalk Landing, lined with shops and restaurants. And if you are planning way in advance, don't forget to pencil in the blowout America's Anniversary Weekend May 11-13, 2007, in Jamestown....

Other suggestions and additional specifics are available at the above link. If you want more information, post a comment, and I'll do my best to provide what you need.

Jamestown is relatively close to me, so maybe my husband and I will take the Mustang GT convertible for a little cruise to that area this spring.

Of course, you can follow your instincts and use ingenuity to find your own way to celebrate 2006. Celebration of life doesn't require travel--just family and friends.

Happy 2006 to you, however you choose to celebrate life in this new year!

Continue reading....